Parents of 17-year-old teen killed by fentanyl overdose: ‘She took a pill and it cost her her life’
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - It’s been a little more than three weeks since Andrew and Dionne Butler spoke to their 17-year-old daughter Clara last.
They came to realize the world changed on the morning of April 21, when Dionne went to go and wake her up.
Clara would not move.
"She said a little bit louder, ‘Clara Helen, you need to get up,’" Andrew Butler said. "She said it one more time, and then I heard her scream so I jumped up. She said she’s not responding."
They tried CPR as they waited for the ambulance, but it was already too late.
The Butlers said their daughter died of a fentanyl overdose. She is one of hundreds of people that have died in Gwinnett County, Georgia of the highly-deadly opioid within the last year.
"She was not by any means a drug addict. She took a pill and it cost her her life," Andrew said.
He said the pill Butler thought she was taking was the painkiller Percocet. It turned out to be a bogus pill pressed laced with fentanyl on the black market and pushed to unsuspecting kids.
Dionne said the pain of losing their only daughter is just now setting in.
"The reality is that she isn’t coming back," she said.
At the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office, chief investigator Eddie Reeves said they have had their hands full dealing with cases just like Clara’s. He believes Gwinnett County is in the midst of an epidemic.
"It’s unbelievable, nothing like I’ve seen over my career," Reeves said of fentanyl overdoses. "They come in almost daily. At least three or four a week."
The drug does not discriminate, Reeves said. His office is consistently examining the bodies of people every race, every age, and every socioeconomic class who died of an overdose.
"When you start having multiple cases a week and seeing the same drug I would classify that as an epidemic," he said.
A spokesperson for the Gwinnett County Police Department said that its narcotics task force is actively tracing the sources of the phony pills to get the drugs of the streets -- and the people peddling them to the public behind bars.
"The consequences would be higher for the suppliers that are knowingly selling these narcotics laced with fentanyl, if they have knowledge they have fentanyl, they could potential he be looking at murder charges," said Hideshi Valle, public information officer for the department.
Meanwhile, Reeves said they are also more consistently seeing another drug in the bodies they examine.
Although fentanyl tends to be the common denominator – and cause of death – he said they are more also seeing a spike in the animal tranquilizer xylazine. The mixture of the drugs leads to an attack on the respiratory system and causes the person using it to die.
"Xylazine is being mixed with the fentanyl, the heroin, the cocaine all of these methamphetamines, all of these other drugs. I can only assume to hook the user even further," Reeves said.
While the Butlers said a preliminary toxicology report indicated that fentanyl caused Clara’s death, the Medical Examiner’s Office is still in the process of confirming it. It is unclear if the pill she took contained xylazine.
The Butlers said they feel compelled to speak out amidst their grief to warn other families about the danger of these knock-off pills.
They also want Clara to be remembered for all the light she brought into the world.
"We were very upfront in the obituary too, that she died of a fentanyl overdose, but what we said was that’s not where her story ends," Andrew said. "There’s so much more to who Clara Helen was, she was a sister, a daughter, she was a friend."
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